By Mayowa Jolayemi

Recently, I have begun to wonder about the attention, speedy responses and urgent support that the local, national and international communities, even individuals have given the COVID-19 outbreak, but not to climate change, which should have received similar attention since 1988, when the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s definitive scientific body on the subject described it as “the greatest threat to human existence.”  Climate change has always posed a great threat to the continued existence of humanity and ultimately could cause catastrophic and irreversible damage to our planet. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has joined this global trend to make human life more complicated with both events posing profoundly serious threats to the two most important aspects of human life, Environment and Health. The earth has always been what we all have in common from Melbourne to the Azores; Wuhan to New York; Madagascar to Norilsk; we all suffer the same fate living on planet earth and desiring a healthy living.

Here is another thing that has made a deep impression on me as I have watched global affairs. Inside the world’s largest lockdown, as a measure to contain the spread of the coronavirus are empty streets, silent cities, banned commercial flights, restricted commuting, and few functioning essential workplaces, many have believed, this has to be good for the environment and possibly a good step in achieving the United Nations SDGs Goal 13. As an accurate response to this wishful thinking, Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist in a tweet from her verified handle, responded on 5th May 2020 saying, “And if there are still people who honestly believe that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will go down, or that climate crisis impacts will reduce – because our CO2 emissions decrease – then that really shows how society has failed to communicate even the most basic facts.” Similarly, Adenike Oladosu, a young Nigerian Climate Activist, said, “the coronavirus pandemic has brought us to a crossroad and a place to take decisions that will make or mar the future of humanity on this planet.”

As a climate expert, Dr. Hausfather, the Director of Climate and Energy at the Breakthrough Institute in California puts it thus, “the skies may be looking clear and just fine, CO2 are the biggest risks but not the only gas to worry about, the polluting greenhouse gases are only a little fraction.” He further emphasized that there are no silver linings to COVID-19. Other scientists who have also analysed the link between viruses, wildlife and habitat destruction have warned that “humanity’s ‘promiscuous treatment of nature’ needs to change or there will be more deadly pandemics such as COVID-19.”

These facts leave less to argue about the impacts of COVID-19 on climate change. Seeing that a single global shock in 2020 will not automatically erase the anthropogenic causes of global warming that have mounted rapidly since the industrial revolution, we have to take rapid, coordinated and deliberate steps to slow down the global temperature by at least 1.50C by 2030. 

And just as we have painstakingly adhered to guidelines to contain COVID-19 and we are certainly fighting it out by our staying safe practices, we can be committed to the long-term investments we require to save our planet. This is not just for us, but also for posterity sake. This is how we practice sustainability.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations rightly said, “We face not one, but two global threats. We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption.” One strong approach to design recovery pathways from COVID-19 economic fallout is to invest public funds in the future and not the past, by taking this opportunity to make the economy and energy systems more sustainable, reducing emissions and slowing down global warming.

Following Guterres advice, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has also called for climate action to be included as part of economic reconstruction plans following the pandemic, including investments in future-oriented technologies such as renewable energy. We ought to begin to see in this new light, the dynamic opportunities COVID-19 has presented to us through our environmental protection practices to save the earth. We must also readily embrace the realities and understanding that the global implications of the impending Climate Crisis if we continue to raise the global temperature will be worse than the current COVID-19 pandemic depressions and challenges we are currently experiencing.

It is therefore important to stress that every little action from everyone, supported and coordinated by government leadership to build a resilient and green economy towards green energy generation and usage; biodiversity protection in flora and fauna; sustainable industrial agricultural practices, must be sustained knowing convincingly that they all contribute to redeeming the earth we all live in.